The best thing about going for a research visit to Oslo, is visiting the rest of Norway. Norway is an incredibly beautiful country with a lot of wild northern nature to discover. So that’s exactly what I did before I settled in Oslo for a month.
First I flew to Tromsø, which is a university city above the arctic circle! I’ve been to Tromsø before [here is a pic from November 2015] and it’s a nice, small city among beautiful nature.
From there I flew to Kirkenes [pronounced something like shirkenes, with a soft -sh], which is at the very north-eastern edge of Norway, bordering to Russia. There is not much to Kirkenes except the fact that it’s the last frontier before Russia 🙂
So, I visited Russia – well, only the port city of Murmansk – for the very first time. Honestly, it was a bit of a culture shock. Some parts of the city are really run-down and the largest part of the city is composed of numerous huge apartment buildings.
On the other hand, I experienced the good side of Russia or Murmansk too. Despite the cold, with temperature ranging form 0 to -10 Celsius, there was a lot of life on the streets. People were out and about, going about their business. In front of the large apartment buildings well-dressed children were playing in the snow. They seemed very free and happy, reminding me of my own childhood, when I would spend whole days [after school] almost completely unmonitored outside. I still can’t imagine the [stereo]typical US childhood, where almost no second of a child’s life is not monitored and controlled.
Then there is the free healthcare. I developed a very bad cold there, so I decided to call a doctor. I was visited by a doctor in my hotel room and was then given a ride to the hospital in the ambulance [super-exciting!]. Yes, it was only a bad cold 🙂 They examined me again at the hospital and gave me a prescription. Everything except the medicine was free! Even for me as a foreigner 😮 Oh, I might also mention that they were trying their best to speak English. Very nice treatment, all in all!
Back in Norway, I did a brief tour along the coast from Kirkenes to Tromsø on the Hurtigruten ship/cruiser [I tested 3 of the Hurtigruten ships and cruisers; by far the coolest experience was on the MS Lofoten ship from 1964!] . Here is a cheesy pic from the MS Lofoten:
The best discovery of the voyage was definitely the village of Vardø, which is supposedly the only Norwegian town with an Arcitc climate. I can confirm that this was certainly and by far the coldest place of my whole trip, so that if I took more than 1 photo on my camera, my hands would start freezing off immediately [I’ve never experienced such cold before]. But fingers can grow back [can’t they?] and these photos were totally worth it!